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SEGRA Foundation

SEGRA Expo brings bright ideas from the bush to Canberra


By Caitlin Crowley 

Innovative leaders from across regional Australia have shared place-based strategies and solutions to the complex challenges facing their communities, as part of a new initiative of the SEGRA Foundation, designed to connect bright ideas from the bush directly with policy makers in Canberra. 

As the Federal Government looks to shift investment in regional areas from being transactional to transformational, the SEGRA Foundation In House Expo at Parliament House showcased the kind of success stories which could be replicated nationwide. 

The event gave 13 entrepreneurs, advocates and representatives from a wide range of community organisations the chance to share their story with politicians and each other, during a “speed dating” style pitch session. 

Among the presenters was Paris Brooke from the Mallacoota Wilderness Collective in rural Victoria; an initiative to support the area’s resilience and recovery after the Black Summer bushfires exposed its reliance on tourism for economic prosperity. 

“We have set about developing a year-round, sustainable economy through a community led initiative and we’re underpinning that through knowledge, enterprises and co-working collaboration,” Brooke said. 

She told the crowd the group was developing a transferable model, underpinned by rural entrepreneurship and social enterprises, that other communities facing similar complexities could use. 

“The SEGRA Expo’s been fantastic just to meet with ministers and advisors on some of the things they’re working on, and have the opportunity to explain to them how it’s working on the ground in the community and what works and what doesn’t, and some of the complexities we face,” she said. 

“It’s also been really useful to meet SEGRA directors and understand where that organisation is going and also fellow members across Australia. 

“We’ve all come from far and wide and there’s amazing initiatives that are happening to try and help with economic development.” 

Minister for Regional Development Kristy McBain also addressed the Expo and thanked SEGRA for its efforts to build and strengthen regional Australia.  

“Much of the success that we can achieve together starts with sharing innovation because so many times we don’t actually need to reinvent the wheel,” McBain said. 

“We want to ensure that strong voices for our regions are heard, because we need to hear from them.

“Real people, real insights, real ideas is generally how we get real outcomes that work.” 

McBain said the Federal Government’s recently released State of Australia’s Regions Report backed in the success stories showcased at the In House Expo. 

“Securing and strengthening the future of regional Australia requires effort across a range of interconnected issues,” she said.  

“When we listen we learn. When we can ensure investment in our regions is less about transactional and more about transformational – we can take informed, place-based approaches that respond to local priorities and perspectives.” 

Foundation Director Ashley Bland said SEGRA was in a place of transition and renewal and was reassessing the best role it could play. 

“We have been a conference for over 25 years but we recognise that there is a role and a whole heap of really great people doing really interesting things in regional Australia,” he said. 

“This event here today is an example of how we are seeking to reach out and deliver the most value as part of an ecosystem for all the organisations that make regional Australia the wonderful thing that it is.” 

The Outback Highway Development Council was another organisation represented at the Expo. 

General Manager Mel Forbes shared the group’s tireless advocacy for the Outback Way, connecting Winton in Queensland’s far south west and Laverton in Western Australia, to be upgraded and sealed.

“That will be a complete game changer for some incredibly remote communities,” she said 

“It will be a gamechanger for industry, there’s quite a lot of mining along the road. It will be a gamechanger for livestock transportation.”

Forbes said the In House Expo was great to gather support from like-minded people and to mix with parliamentarians who would be making decisions on funding. 

“It’s such a fantastic event to meet other projects that are happening in remote and regional Australia,” she said. 

“We can see exactly what everyone’s up to and the incredible innovation and passion behind developing further benefits and ongoing solutions for Australians.”

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